No deal struck with INC – Palace

Thousands of Iglesia Ni Cristo members stage protest at EDSA

MANILA– Malacanang put an end to speculations that the government struck a deal with the Iglesia Ni Cristo, which abruptly ended its five-day protest on Monday morning.

“There was no deal struck, as some insinuate. The talks gave both sides an opportunity to clarify issues and concerns,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said in a brief statement.

The protests, which started on Thursday, called for the separation of Church and State, as members of the INC alleged that the government was meddling with their internal affairs. Expelled minister Isaias Samson Jr. filed an illegal detention case against some of the INC leaders, which Justice Secretary Leila de Lima acted upon by ordering an investigation.

Samson was accused by the leaders of putting up a blog that exposed alleged corruption and how the religious organization is being run.

“I am not privy to the discussions between the INC and the government,” presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda also said.

On Sunday night, President Benigno Aquino III met his Cabinet officials for nearly four hours. Some of the people in attendance were Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, Budget Secretary Butch Abad, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman, Armed Forces chief Gen. Hernando Iriberri and PNP chief Director Gen. Ric Marquez.

Some of the matters discussed were ongoing developments on the status of the INC rally and post-expiration permit scenarios.

The mass action started at the Department of Justice on Padre Faura in Manila on Thursday before the protesters moved to EDSA on Friday. By Sunday night, EDSA at Ortigas-Shaw Boulevard had a crowd of about 15,000 but the protest abruptly ended the next morning.

The protests caused monstrous traffic jam that angered motorists and commuters. It was said to have worsened traffic on a payday and a start of a long weekend.

The INC leadership cited “an agreement” between their organization and the government that led to the immediate end to the protest.

“Nais po naming ipabatid sa inyong lahat na nagkausap na po ang panig ng Iglesia at ang panig pamahalaan. At sa pag-uusap na ito ay nagkapaliwanagan na po ang dalawang panig. Kaya payapa na po ang lahat,” INC General Evangelist Bienvenido Santiago said on television.